Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘infographics’

08 AUGUST, 2013

The Comic Book Universe, Distilled in Infographics

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What a physical history of saying “Good Grief” has to do with superhero undergarments and the pizza toppings of the Ninja Turtles.

Ever since the invention of ISOTYPE in the 1930s, infographics have emerged as the new language of the information age, employing visual minimalism to distill everything from British and American politics to the jazz scene of the Roaring Twenties to major movements in philosophy to pop culture and historical events. And, now, infographics are tackling the wild and wonderful world of comics: Enter Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe (public library) by former Wired digital design director Tim Leong — a charming compendium of visual syntheses dissecting everything from the trifecta of superhero tropes (apparently, underwear worn on the outside is a make-or-break factor) to the genealogy of Scrooge McDuck’s kin (none of whom, coincidentally, wear underwear) to the Multiverse (or, at least, multi-Earth universe) that emerges from the entire line of DC comics to the daily schedule of the average manga artist.

But given my profound admiration for the work of Chris Ware, whom I often find myself considering the greatest cartoonist working today, my indisputable favorite is this “Chris Ware Sadness Scale,” ranging from “sad” to “soul-crushing depression”:

Complement Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe with Nathan Yau’s indispensable manual on how to tell stories with data and Taschen’s compendium of the world’s best information graphics.

Images courtesy of Chronicle Books

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31 JANUARY, 2013

How Chemistry Works: Gorgeous Vintage Science Diagrams, 1854

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Illustrated retro reactions from the father of Popular Science.

Edward Livingston Youmans (1821-1887), best-remembered as the founder of Popular Science magazine, was one of history’s greatest science writers and editors. Besides pioneering what Richard Feynman has termed “the role of scientific culture in modern society” with his journalistic endeavors, Youmans also authored a number of beautifully illustrated textbooks, including Chemical Atlas: Or, The Chemistry of Familiar Objects. Originally published in 1854, the book is in the public domain but is sadly long out of print. A digital version is available in multiple formats from The Internet Archive, and it has been reproduced in hard-copy, alas without the artwork. Many of the individual illustrations are available as prints. (Click each image for the poster version.)

Youmans writes in the introduction:

Every experienced teacher understands the necessity of making the acquisition of the elementary and foundation principles upon which a science rests, the first business of study. If these are thoroughly mastered, subsequent progress is easy and certain.

Complement with some gorgeous vintage science ads, anatomical illustrations, and science infographics.

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13 NOVEMBER, 2012

Britain vs. America in Minimalist Vintage Infographics

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A time-capsule of mid-century cultural contrasts.

ISOTYPE, the vintage visual language pioneered by Austrian sociologist, philosopher and curator Otto Neurath and his wife Marie in the 1930s, shaped modern information graphics and visual storytelling. America and Britain: Three Volumes in One, also known as Only an Ocean Between, is a wonderful 1946 out-of-print book by P. Sargant Florence and Lella Secor Florence from the golden age of ISOTYPE, kindly digitized by Michael Stoll, presenting a series of minimalist infographics that compare and contrast various aspects of life in Britain and the United States, a-la Paris vs. New York.

As a time-capsule of cultural change and technological progress, the infographics put present-day numbers in perspective, especially in the domains of telecommunication, media, and resource usage.

Though this particular triad edition is regrettably long out of print, you can find it at your local public library and, with some rummaging through Amazon, you might be able to secure some remaining used copies of the individual volumes.

For more on the history and legacy of ISOTYPE, see the excellent The Transformer: Principles of Making Isotype Charts.

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